The Monday issue of this newspaper has, on its front page at least four major news-items which not only speak volumes about the present state of affairs in Assam, but also about the near-total absence of work culture here. The main lead on Monday focused on how the number of working days in offices under the Government of Assam has been shrinking every passing year. It says that the number of government holidays in Assam has increased from 31 days in 2013 to 35 days in 2019. This reduction in the number of working days does not in any manner improve the overall socio-economic condition of the state and her people. More holidays mean less work in government offices.
This in turn adversely affects the functioning of almost all other sectors, be it agriculture, business, education or healthcare. Files in Assam government offices, which anyway have long ago earned the reputation of moving at a snail’s pace , have, in the past few years left the snail far behind. The outcome is – everything else is also moving slower than ever. Movement of files in almost every government department related to anything – appointment, confirmation of service, promotion, pension, and even reimbursement of medical bills, etc – has slowed down, if not stopped altogether. One of the several major reasons, besides rampant corruption, is the increasing number of government holidays. Employees of no other state in the country enjoy one-third of the year as holidays and off-days as they do in Assam. In 2020, for instance, of the 366 days – it is going to be a leap year – Assam government employees will not require attending office for as many as 112 days. This includes Sundays and second Saturdays apart from the 35 gazetted holidays. There will also be two half-holidays and two restricted holidays. And then, of course, deputy commissioners are empowered to declare a few more days as local holidays.
Now look at the second news-item; it is about the Assam College Teachers’ Association putting the blame of the menace of private tuitions on the state government. The reality is that while the state government had banned private tuition, the vast majority of college teachers, especially those teaching different science subjects as well as English, are still carrying on with the practice under various excuses. College teachers belong to that segment of employees who enjoy one of the best salary structures. Yet, while there is a sizeable section of college teachers in Assam who had got high marks from certain notorious universities outside the region after having sometimes somehow managing to scrape through the plus-two stage in the third division. Absenteeism among college teachers is also said to be on the rise; there are several instances of some teachers hardly taking classes after getting elected to various organizations and literary bodies.
The result is: the vast majority of students do not get the required attention, and in turn add to the growing number of unemployable youth. The other two front-page news-items that only further strengthen the majority belief that work culture has gone to the dogs in Assam are related to a number of water supply schemes that have all missed their deadlines for completion. The first one is about how a bunch of inefficient engineers belonging to the Public Health Engineering department have messed up an ambitious World Bank project intended at supplying safe 24x7 drinking water to villages in six districts – Kamrup (M), Jorhat, Hailakandi, Sivasagar, Morigaon and Bongaigaon.
The second news-item speaks about the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and the Public Health Engineering department have joined hands to scuttle a safe drinking water supply project in the hill district, allotment of funds for which was made way back in 2007-08. All these are glaring examples of the lack of work culture and increase in corruption and other malpractices, with the corrupt officials knowing it pretty well that the government is not going to catch and punish them. These people also know it well that no individual or organization will raise a voice of protest, because they know the art of silencing them. There is hardly any organization in the state – irrespective of whether it is a student body, a literary body or a civil society group – which does not take donations from these unscrupulous contractors and corrupt officials. That also contributes to the lack of work culture.